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Shields-Adler another positive step for women’s boxing

Photo credit: Tom Casino/Showtime
01
Aug

The evolution of women’s boxing in America takes a step forward on Friday, when two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields gets to strut her stuff as the headliner on Showtime’s ShoBox program.

Shields (3-0, 1 knockouts) will be taking a step up, on paper, as she tests herself and her progress since turning pro last November against German resident Nikki Adler. You can watch live at the MGM Grand Detroit if you so desire, where it is expected the Flint, Michigan native Shields will pack the room.

I checked in with both combatants as we count down to their tango, in which the WBC 168-pound title, now with Adler (16-0, 9 KOs), and the vacant IBF strap will be up for grabs.

First off, I asked Shields: Where does women’s boxing as a whole stand, right now?

“As a whole I think we are in a good standing, we made it over that hump. Fighting on major networks. Getting paid, having an opportunity. Still work that needs to be done, but I’m glad women are going pro to give me a little help. People like Katie Taylor, Mikaela Mayer, Tiara Brown, Latondria Jones, the Serrano sisters…”

This fight…tell me your scouting report on Adler…

“I’ve been scouting women’s pro boxing since I won the first Olympics, I looked at all the top dogs and I knew then none of them could beat me. I didn’t train to beat Adler, I trained to beat myself.”

Any trepidation on taking on someone with more seasoning as a pro at this juncture?

“I don’t have a problem with it, it’s all about being in shape honestly. She doesn’t have better skills than me, and she can’t out-brawl me! My IQ from the Olympics and just international (amateur bouts) alone has more experience than her. She has just boxed more rounds in pros.”

Tell me, is a title important? If yes, why?

“A title is very important to me,” the 22-year-old Shields continued. “And my team. It’s a level of respect. Especially just within four fights. To say I have a world title just like Muhammad Ali had. No one can get mad at me about me saying I’m the best. I have the WBC belt!”

Not looking beyond this fighter and fight, a pro knows that… but what are some other possibilities after Adler? Who is on your watch or want list?

“I want to unify the weight, then I want to fight against Maricela Cornejo, Christina Hammer also, I’ll drop to 154 for Layla McCarter because she talk too much, and I’d love to fight Tori Nelson and Kali Reis.”

Thoughts on Showtime making a commitment to the women’s side, please…

“Showtime took a big step with me, they put their trust in me and believed in me. I’m forever grateful and happy,” said the boxer managed by ex-HBO PPV exec Mark Taffet, and promoted by Dmitriy Salita.

Finally, anything you want to add, that I didn’t ask?

“Will I cry after I become world champion? I don’t think so, I’ll be too happy, and I want Nikki Adler to look me in my face and shake my hand, #Jesse Owens!”

Interesting stuff from this talented performer, who surprised me with that Jesse Owens comment.

Adler, age 30, also fielded some queries.

“I started boxing when I was 15 years old and I successfully fought my first fight after only a few weeks,” she said, when asked how she started boxing. “I was born in Germany but had the Croatian citizenship like my parents. For Croatia I have been an international player for many years (30 fights, 24 wins, 1 draw as an amateur). I took part in German, European and World Championships. Today I am a six-time world champion. I am the WBU, WIBA, WBF, GBU, WIBA and current WBC World Champion. I won the WBC title on the 30th of November 2013 after a spectacular boxing match against Zane Brige from Latvia. It was the first women’s boxing match in Chechnya. Since then I have been the holder of the golden WBC belt.”

She grew up in Germany, in Bavaria, a town called Augsburg.

“My parents are already retired and I have a bigger sister. A few weeks ago – in July – I have become an aunt the first time—it’s a girl!—and I am very proud and in love. Family is the most important thing in life and I have a very close relationship to my sister. This championship will be the first fight without my sister at my side but all will cross their fingers at home.”

She then shared about turning pro. “Back in 2009, I got the advice to take the German citizenship and this decision had severe consequences which I didn’t know. After receiving the German nationality, I was suspended by the AIBA for three years, which prevented a start on the German national team and finally led me to decide for a career with the pros. I have accepted my fate and today I am very proud of my belts.”

What are her strengths as a fighter? And weaknesses?

“I am a very tough puncher with nine KOs in my 16 fights as a pro and very experienced.”

What is her assessment of Shields?

“Claressa is a two-time Olympic gold medalist,” Adler continued. “It is clear that she has the ability to be a great fighter. This will create magic moments on August 4. I am looking forward to meet my challenger in the ring!”

Is Shields biting off more than she can chew on Aug. 4?

“I don’t think about her short time as a professional. Claressa and her team have the know-how to be just on time for the biggest fight possible,” she said, deftly fielding a question which could have spurred a response which Shields might have used as a bulletin board motivator.

My take: This bout indeed is another step in a positive direction for women’s boxing. Ultimately, it will be the fans’ choice, more than anything, how quick the progression is from here on out. If the ratings are good, if Shields and the others she mentioned continue to grow their fan base, more opportunities will arise.

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